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Mega-Startup Uber Makes Unexpected Acquisition of Egyptian-Founded App Studio Swipe Labs

The ridesharing giant has purchased the social app development startup for an undisclosed amount. What does this mean for the future of the Uber experience?

How does it feel to have your startup purchased by what is arguably the world’s biggest, most famous startup? Well, if you want to know, all you have to do is ask Marwan Roushdy, the young Egyptian ingenue behind the social photo-sharing app called Swipe. At not even 30 years old, Roushdy has already experienced the full life cycle of an entrepreneur: from running with an idea, to building and burying multiple businesses, to striking investment gold and subsequently running a big business and then selling it, the social app trailblazer has now done it all.

On July 14th, Roushdy announced that his social app studio, Swipe Labs, had been acquired by Uber. Four years after its inception, the team behind Swipe Labs will be joining Uber in order to help the multinational corporation develop the app experience for its driver earnings team. The startup-turned-ridesharing behemoth is finally opening up the option to tip its drivers, and the Swipe acquisition could lead to new features that will benefit Uber’s employees behind the wheel.

Swipe was initially formed by Roushdy and his former business partner Addison Hardy as a means to privately and anonymously share single-view photos with friends, in an attempt to encourage more genuine interactions via social media. The startup generated a great deal of celebrity and media buzz, attracting the attention of major investors including Khosla Ventures, First Round, Sherpa Capital, SV Angel and the recently-imploded Binary Capital, eventually approaching a $56 million valuation. Fate would not be on the side of Roushdy and Hardy, though – despite the confidence from investors, the platform was soon challenged and then overpowered by Snapchat. Hardy eventually left the company, and Roushdy continued to push Swipe forward on his own. The company produced a number of social apps, but none of them would prove to be the bottled lightning Swipe Labs would need for a smashing success.

The real value behind Swipe Labs is its engineering team, which will be absorbed into Uber as part of the deal. Commonly referred to as an “acquihire” in tech circles, this type of acquisition has more to do with securing talent than it does with a company’s product. Just earlier this year, Tilt, a peer-to-peer payment system co-founded by Egyptian entrepreneur Khaled Hussein, was purchased by Silicon Valley’s rental sensation Airbnb for an undisclosed amount in a similar situation.

Main image: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images


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